Fearless. Jewish. Learning. Intellectual honesty. Student-centered. Dialogical. Flexible. Depth.

These longstanding attributes attracted me to the work of Lehrhaus Judaica (“The House of Jewish Learning”), and in mid-August, I began my tenure as its second Executive Director. The past two months have been a period of discovery for my wife, Molly, and for our two children, Ezekiel and Poppy, as we have settled into our routines, our kids have started in their new schools, and as I have explored the “rooms” of this magnificent educational endeavor founded in 1974 by Fred Rosenbaum. A revolutionary model of German-Jewish education from the first half of the 20th Century inspired Fred’s creativity. As I have begun to construct a vision of Lehrhaus’s future, I too, am informed by our collective past.

One of the revelatory lessons that I assimilated from my graduate work studying the Hebrew Bible, is that metaphors powerfully shape thought and communication. Biblical writers conceptualized their world as a series of interlocking or inter-nesting metaphorical houses: houses inside of houses inside of houses. The power of house metaphors endures. Jewish activity continues to unfold in “Houses of Encounter” (Batei K’nesset), “Houses of Aspiration” (Batei T’filah), and in “Houses of Inquiry” (Batei Midrash), to name just a few of these Jewish “dwellings.” Franz Rosenzweig drew from this ancient network of metaphors when, in 1920, he named his new school, the spiritual ancestor of our Lehrhaus Judaica, Das Freies Juedisches Lehrhaus (“The Free Jewish House of Learning”), in which adults of all ages could pursue Jewish education through dialogue and discussion, a House of Inquiry in which questions were more important than answers.

Within this House, and ahead of his time, Rosenzweig, and his colleagues (including Martin Buber and Abraham Joshua Heschel), constructed educational processes in which students chose paths of learning based on their individual needs and desires. Through their pedagogy, the faculty of the Free Jewish Lehrhaus sought to ensure that their students became more human and not merely more Jewish.

During the past two months, I have explored many of the aspects (the “rooms”) of Lehrhaus Judaica. I have met with its staff, lay leaders, teachers, and students (Lehrhaus’s “inhabitants”), as well as with other Executive Directors and Rabbis. I have learned much about Lehrhaus’s past, and Lehrhaus’s present standing in the Bay Area Jewish community. As an organization, we have entered a period of taking stock, and of planning, as we seek to evolve as an educational enterprise of great relevance. As with the original Lehrhaus, we seek to practice life-centered Jewish education: pedagogy oriented towards the whole person and full set of human concerns. The Book of Proverbs (24:3-4) states that, “A house is built by wisdom, and is established by discernment. With knowledge, its rooms are filled with all precious and beautiful things.”

It is an honor to follow in Fred’s footsteps, and a privilege to work with Lehrhaus’s wise staff and Board. But we also need your knowledge and discernment in order to build our future upon Lehrhaus’s strong foundation. Join with us as we renovate our magnificent House of Jewish Learning. It is an exciting time at Lehrhaus Judaica, and I will have more to share with you in the months ahead.

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